This post sat in Draft for a long time; it’s been difficult to hit the Publish button. I’ve been afraid. Fearful of exposing my weaknesses, my shortcomings, that I had a knowing deep down inside that I ignored. Afraid of being judged. One of my go-to podcasts for inspiration is Good Life Project Podcast. Alexia Vernon’s episode, Stop Hiding, Reclaim Your Voice, speaks to the power of owning and sharing your story.
So. Here it goes.
OK. Keepin’ it real. I suspected Matt was gay. For a long time. Seventeen years to be precise (um. that’s painful looking at that typed onto the screen). Along with my emotions and fears, I stuffed that nagging thought as far down as I could. I loved Matt, being married, being a “traditional” family. Matt was my best friend, my biggest supporter, and loudest cheerleader. I could not fathom not being married to Matt. Couldn’t imagine getting divorced. My parents have been married 50+ years; getting divorced, being a divorcee was most definitely not me. Not in my plan. Fears stuffed, I put on the face of perfection and went about my life.
When our oldest was a year old, I came across something that made me question Matt’s sexuality. Terrified, I confronted him. Matt had an answer that I happily bought… sort of. Here began years of sleuthing. Quickly snooping through drawers, scouring files, emails, texts when he stepped out of the room. Heart pounding, mouth dry. Afraid of what I would find. Relieved when my search turned up empty. Yet knowing I just wasn’t finding clues to what I knew to be true. Sick to my stomach and confused when I would find something. Over the course of our marriage, I uncovered multiple clues. I quickly dismissed them and explained them away. For if I were to acknowledge the truth of what I found, what did that say about my marriage? About me?
For a period of time, Matt was clearly unhappy, on edge. I confronted him. I told him that I suspected he was gay and encouraged him to seek counseling.
Seeking and Failing at Counseling
He definitely wasn’t gay he said. We sought counseling together. However, I felt that Matt wasn’t being truly honest with the therapist. With himself. I now see that he wasn’t yet ready to step into his truth. We just quit going to counseling. I just dropped the issue. Ignored it. I had no clue how to navigate that. I felt lost. Paralyzed. Searching for the truth yet ignoring it when I found it.
The last few years of our marriage, I lived in constant fear. Afraid he really was gay. Might be seen out with another man. Would drink too much at a party and reveal himself. Afraid he would leave me. Afraid of being alone. I never shared these fears. They were a heavy burden. Matt’s sexuality, and where I fit into his life, were my first and last thoughts of every day…for seventeen years.
Two years before Matt came out, I came across evidence I simply couldn’t ignore. I confronted Matt. He admitted to what I had found. Yet. He reassured me that he was not gay, that he was committed to me, to our marriage, our family. I begged him to be honest.
“If you are gay, please don’t wait until you are 70 years old to leave me,” I pleaded.
While I suspected Matt was gay, I lulled myself into believing that we were ok. I also decided that l got what I deserved. A man who loved parts of me, but not all of me. I knew I was not enough for him. Yet I loved our family and being a full-time mom more than I loved myself. I could not walk away from my children; I did not want to be divorced, be a 50% mom. I couldn’t imagine not tucking my children into bed every night, being there in the morning to hug them, kiss them and ask “How was your sleep? Tell me about your dreams.” Missing not only major milestones but all of the little moments that together make up a life.
And now I live with the fact that I willingly stayed in a marriage knowing I was not enough. I carry shame, anger, grief, and loss. Decades of deceit. One of the reasons it took me so long to seek out stories of others like me is that reading their stories is like looking in a mirror. And not liking the reflection.
Many of you have asked – or were too afraid to ask but wondered – did you know? So you now know that deep down I knew but wished with every fiber of my being that it wasn’t true. I realize that this is selfish. That by ignoring my intuition, I didn’t help Matt to step fully into his true self. That I did not model strength for our boys during that time.
I’m learning to forgive myself. As I speak with others in my situation, I find comfort in knowing that they made the same choices as I did. For the same reasons. I’m learning to make decisions from a place of strength not fear. Listening to and following my heart. Pursuing what brings me joy. I can’t go back in time or play the “what if” game. I can choose to move forward, seek beauty in the unexpected, and celebrate my growth.